There are very few factors in your plastic surgery decision that are more important than your expectations of what your surgery will mean to your life. Unmet and unrealistic expectations can be the factor with the most potential to wreak havoc on a plastic surgery patient’s emotional well-being.
First, there are your expectations of the physical outcome of the surgery: Will everything look the way you envision? Are you expecting perfect symmetry (which, as any plastic surgeon will tell you, does not exist in the human body)? How much imperfection can you live with after the amount of time, money, and pain you have invested in having the procedure? Are the scars more prominent than you expected? Is the difference not as dramatic as you had hoped?
Here is where it is important to give healing a chance. Swelling is part of your body’s way of repairing damaged tissue. Therefore, you will be swollen---perhaps more so in some areas than in others---which can make it difficult to have faith in the final outcome of your procedure. In fact, in some cases, swelling may keep you from seeing your final result for up to one full year. Try not to be distraught over the long wait. After all, you made it through the first 20 (or 16, or 40) years of your life with your old nose. You’ll make it through the healing period with a puffy version of your new one.
As for incision site scars, contouring irregularities, and bruising---yes it can be very disconcerting to look like a hit-and-run victim, even when you have been warned and you understand that it is temporary. However, many patients aren’t truly mentally prepared for the sight of themselves in this condition, and the reality can sometimes bring on painful pangs of buyer’s remorse…but tough it out, and I promise, it will get better.
Are you going into your surgery thinking, “Once I finally got the last few pounds of fat sucked out of my thighs, I will be able to find my prince charming”? Or that once your nose is fixed, you’ll finally be “the pretty one” when you hang out with your friends? Or do you fantasize that the movie offers will start rolling in as soon as the bandages came off?
Here are some things to think about before undergoing surgery, so that your “after” experience can be a smoother transition:
- Is the part of you that you’re having “fixed” an intrinsic part of your identity? How will it feel to have such a drastic change to the way you see yourself? Don’t assume that you will automatically feel comfortable seeing a different reflection in the mirror every morning.
- Are you expecting your surgery to automatically make you confident around others, when you have always been a wallflower? While it’s true that plastic surgery has the potential to relieve some of our self-consciousness, it will not completely change your personality.
- Are you expecting plastic surgery to change the way others react to you, or the way they treat you? While it is quite likely others will notice your changed appearance, and may even find you more attractive as a result, it does not necessarily follow that you can expect more respect or better treatment as a result of your transformation.
- Are you using plastic surgery as a diversion to keep you from having to face a painful part of your life? Sad but all too common is the story of the woman who decides to undergo a major surgical total body overhaul because she fears her husband has been (or will be) unfaithful with a younger woman. Plastic surgery cannot work miracles in your personal life. In fact, the strain of recovery can be hard on a relationship which is already on shaky ground.
- Are you looking to plastic surgery as a way to erase the pain of past teasing and torment (usually in your childhood)? Many a picked-on child has dreamed of the day when he or she would show up at the high school reunion looking fabulous, and all of their classmates would feel horrible for having teased them about their nose, their acne, or their thunder thighs. (Then the captain of the football team asks her to dance, and it’s a TV movie-of-the-week in the making.) While it’s certainly fun to think about making your past tormentors eat their unkind words, plastic surgery will not erase the past, or its emotional scars.
It is a plastic surgeon’s responsibility to assess a prospective patient’s reasons and expectations before agreeing to operate. That having been said, the best outcomes will be for the patient who takes personal responsibility for his or her own reasons and expectations. So, while you’re making up that list of questions to ask your surgeon, make sure you are also taking the time to ask yourself the important questions.